Wilders demands “clarity” over Russian propaganda network claims

Voice of Europe is accused of being a mouthpiece for Russia. Photo: Depositphotos

Geert Wilders has called for “clarity” from the outgoing Dutch government over allegations that politicians from the Netherlands and five other EU countries were involved in a Russian disinformation campaign.

Czech news website Denik N reported that some far-right politicians had taken money to spread pro-Russian propaganda via the Prague-based news website Voice of Europe, quoting sources in the Czech intelligence service BIS.

BIS did not identify the politicians by name, but Dutch media pointed out that Wilders, Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet and MEP Marcel de Graaff, who has represented both FVD and Wilders’s PVV, had all featured on Voice of Europe.

Caretaker home affairs minister Hugo de Jonge said the cabinet had contacted Czech authorities at the weekend, but no names of “Dutch people or organisations” had been mentioned in connection with the propaganda channel.

Wilders called for an emergency debate in parliament on Tuesday to discuss the matter. “There needs to be clarity about this,” he said. “This concerns intelligence agencies, so the question is whether it is appropriate.”

In a briefing to parliament, De Jonge said he wouldn’t identify politicians and parties were implicated, but said the intelligence agency AIVD would “act when necessary”.

Omtzigt: “Declassify documents”

Pieter Omtzigt, leader of the centre-right Nieuw Sociaal Contract (NSC), also tabled emergency questions last week asking ministers to declassify the documents surrounding Voice of Europe.

Omtzigt said that the issue risked undermining the European elections, which are being held in June, if voters were not told which politicians were suspected of taking bribes.

“There are people who have opinions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine that differ from mine. That is acceptable in a democracy. But the accusation is that people are being paid,” Omtzigt told TV show Buitenhof.

“That is taking bribes to promote a position, and politicians who do that face considerable jail sentences. The first is not a crime, the second is. That’s why I want to know as soon as possible who is supposed to have been taking money so that parliament can do something about it.”

Voice of Europe was originally founded in the Netherlands between 2017 and 2019, when it was closely linked to Forum voor Democratie, before being relaunched in Prague last year.

Last week it was sanctioned by the Czech government for leading a pro-Russian influence operation designed to undermine the “territorial integrity, sovereignty and freedom” of Ukraine. Politicians in countries including Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Netherlands were accused of spreading Russian propaganda.

Wilders was interviewed by the website in 2018 and has praised it for its “unique and valuable work”, but denied the PVV had received money from Russia in any form. “I have done absolutely nothing that could not stand the light of day,” he said.

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